Stephen Abell

The play’s the thing

The early life of Arthur Miller reads a bit like the first chapters of The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow: a precocious Jewish boy during the Great Depression, an influential older brother, an adolescent sexual awakening with a prostitute. Indeed, his life as a whole — in which he was to marry and divorce Marilyn Monroe, be found in contempt of Congress for refusing to name (fellow) communists and write his century’s greatest play — contains narrative, novelistic elements that cannot fail to compel: sex and celebrity, politics and theatrics, tragedy and Tragedy.

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